As It Happens

After Corona's owner invests billions in Canadian weed, get ready for cannabis beer

Constellation Brands is taking a $5-billion bet on the potential market for cannabis-infused beer.

Toronto brewer says his weed-infused beer is like 'max two hits off a joint'

Bob and Doug McKenzie, two fictional Canadian brothers who hosted Great White North. Pot-infused beer could soon be coming to Canada, after Constellation Brands invests $5 billion in Canopy Growth. (Photo illustration by Kevin Kirk with image from Canadian Press)

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Dooma Wendschuh is over the moon that Constellation Brands is taking a $5-billion bet on the potential market for cannabis-infused beer. 

"What we're talking about are two of the greatest substances known to man, beer and cannabis, in the same glass. I mean it's amazing," the CEO of Province Brands — a Toronto-based company that has made a beer created from cannabis —  told As It Happens guest host Matt Galloway. 

His company makes beer by brewing it with different parts of the cannabis plant. While other breweries are expected to infuse their product with cannabis oils. 

Constellation Brands, which owns well-known beverages such as Corona beer and Kim Crawford wines, announced that they are investing $5 billion into Smiths Falls, Ont.-based cannabis company Canopy Growth. 

While the recreational use of cannabis will be legal on Oct. 17 in Canada, any cannabis-infused cocktails will have to wait until October 2019. 

Wendschuh spoke with Galloway about how the beverage industry is set to transform. 

Here is part of that conversation. 

Mr. Wendschuh, if I'm being honest with you the idea of beer with weed in it sounds kind of gross to me. Why would somebody want this?

Why wouldn't somebody want this? I mean what we're talking about are two of the greatest substances known to man, beer and cannabis, in the same glass. I mean it's amazing.

I could imagine how you might think it sounds gross because, you know, when you smoke weed there's a flavour that you get that might not seem compatible with beer.

But the truth is that cannabis and hops ... they're very closely related. They're both in the cannabaceae family​, which is a family of plants.

It's just a natural fit when we're talking about making a cannabis beverage, that beer that includes cannabis comes top of mind.

Dooma Wendschuh, the CEO of Province Brands, is excited about what the partnership between Constellation Brands and Canopy Growth means for the pot-infused beer industry. (Submitted by Province Brands )

It's also a natural fit to make a lot of money apparently. This deal this week between Constellation and Canopy Growth is worth something like $5 billion. That is a staggering amount of money. When you heard about this, what was your reaction?

Mostly jealousy. I wish it had been us but it's just a fantastic movement for our industry and it has also helped our small company Province Brands quite a bit.

You don't work for either one of these companies but give us a sense as to how you imagine they're going to make this beer?

It's all conjecture at this point. We know they're going to make a beverage and it could be any type of a beverage.

If they were going to make a beer, you know, it's likely they're going to do what a lot of other folks have announced plans to do which is to make a non-alcoholic beer brewed from barley and infuse it with a marijuana oil, which is fundamentally different than what our company at Province Brands does.

We actually have developed a patent pending technology to brew a beer from the cannabis plant itself.

What does it taste like?

It is dry ... like you could compare to a sweet white wine to a dry white wine.

It's savoury, it's refined and sophisticated. But most importantly, it tastes like beer.

We wanted to make a leap for someone who's maybe never tried cannabis as small and as manageable as possible. So instead of trying to make something no one's ever heard of before, we wanted to make something that smells familiar, that looks familiar and that tastes familiar.

Is it true that the first beer you made tasted like rotten broccoli?

That is a fact.

Wendschuh said Province Brands' first batch of weed-infused beer didnt' turn out so well: 'It tasted like rotten broccoli. It was completely undrinkable.' The company has since improved the taste. (Submitted by Province Brands )

That doesn't sound good at all.

It does not, no. But thankfully we've gotten a lot better at what we do.

That first batch tasted terrible. It tasted like rotten broccoli. It was completely undrinkable.

How high does it get you?

Well I'll put a word of caution here. If you've never consumed cannabis before, the first time, it would probably get you pretty high.

I mean give us a point of comparison. If you're sitting around smoking a joint or, you know, you puff on the bong, how many hits does it take to be the equivalent of a bottle of beer?

Probably max two hits off a joint … and small hits. It's very mild.

Workers produce medical marijuana at Canopy Growth Corporation's Tweed facility in Smiths Falls, Ont., on Feb. 12, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Where's the limit here, do you think? I mean … if five billion dollars is being put into a company … by a brewing company, where's the limit here when it comes to this market?

I don't think there is a limit. This is absolutely a change in our world and I don't think most people are understanding how big this can be.

I mean ... this is the first time in any of our lives that a new psychoactive has become legalized  for social and leisure activities.

Written by Sarah Jackson. Produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has edited for length and clarity.